It’s a game of two halves

Catherine Shanahan is relishing the sight of fit young men kicking a ball.

I WOKE up in a sweat last night, pulse racing, heart a-flutter. I'd dreamt Francesco Totti went down in his opponent's penalty area, but this time he didn't get up.

The stadium fell silent, the flag-waving frenzy dwindled and died and the medics shook their heads.

Totti lay motionless, taut in his skin-tight kit, toppled for the last time.

No more would I see the gorgeous, pouting Italian spread-eagled before my eyes ... the sobbing started ... and woke me up.

As with any nightmare, it took a few moments before I grasped my bearings and realised where I was. I looked around my bedroom for a sign. Ah yes, there he was, in his dashing shade of azure, heightened by his tan, winking from the wall.

'Euro 2004' the poster read and warm reality came crashing in. The days of Totti are upon us.

What living, breathing woman would not celebrate? A three-week affair with footballs' Euro stars as they vie for continental supremacy.

Alessandro del Piero, Thierry Henry, Christian Vieri, Freddie Ljungberg the names flow as gloriously as their football and the rippling muscles in their finely- honed physiques.

What matter if car aficionado Jeremy Clarkson likened the spectacle to David Beckham and boy-friends chasing an inflated sheep's pancreas round some field in Portugal?

No sisters, it is not an event to be taken lightly. Nor is it time to mourn for the soccer widow or cause the credit card to spontaneously combust. Instead, take a professional approach. Look up the teams, seek out the talent and above all, study the form.

Know your man. For me, Totti aside, it has to be Freddie Ljungberg, the Swedish Sid Vicious of the English Premiership, with the cheekie chappie grin.

Or Thierry Henry, to pundits a most complete player, to women a most complete man.

There are the old reliables France's Zinedine Zidane, Portugal's Luis Figo not the standard pin-ups but the legend makes the man.

Even Ruud van Nistelrooy, the Marty Morrisey of football, has wooed a certain element with his fancy-dan footwork and superlative goal-scoring skills.

What woman could froth that the visions who fill her daytime fantasies will now fill her TV screens? What poor misguided soul could get upset at the prospect of three weeks on a sofa, titillated by, if not Hasan Sas, at least Hagan Daas?

Here are men in their prime, fine and fit, honed and toned, driven by a passion that brings out their very best. Even the referees have a certain allure. Take Italian ref Pierluigi Collina, whose glaring baldness and madness of the eyes exudes a certain je ne sais quoi.

Ladies, there is something for everyone. Regardless of the absence of broody hero Roy and the rest of the boys in Green, you'll find something to tickle your fancy. Take it from me.

Once I went potty for Totti there was no going back. To hell with the three gold stars that decorate his fetching strip, the kudos for winning three World Cups. Give him five I say.

And give me the remote.

Taking the sting out of shopping

LEAVE nothing to chance. Saturday shopping can be a nightmare, especially if you have a big baby to look after.

Luckily, a TV sofa area has been installed with astro turf at Selfridge's department store in London where 'football widows' can deposit their partners to watch the games.

Fields of dreams

Estadio da Luz, Lisbon €119.5 million, 65,000 capacity

Jose Alvalade, Lisbon €78.6m, 52,000 capacity

Dragao, Porto €98.3m, 52,000 capacity

Aveiro €43.8m, 30,000 capacity

Braga €83.2m, 30,000 capacity

Bessa Seculo XXI, Porto €45.3m, 30,000 capacity

Algarve, Faro/Loule €34.8m, 30,000 capacity

Lansdowne Road €292m, 50,000 capacity.

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